Obsolete law

A lot has changed in the 75 years since Christian collective worship was made compulsory in schools. East London Humanists call for reform in the Spiritual Life column of the Ilford Recorder 11 July 2019

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the 1944 Education Act requirement for state schools to hold a ‘daily act of collective worship wholly or mainly of a Christian character.’ A lot has changed in 75 years.

According to the latest statistics the non-religious are the largest growing group in England – a staggering 46% increase in seven years, and over half the population. There are also now of course many other beliefs and faiths to be found in Redbridge and elsewhere.

Polls show most parents oppose the requirement. Opt-outs are available, and in practice many schools ignore it with impunity. A positive development is the surge of interest in inviting Humanists to speak at school assemblies about their ethical non-religious perspective. Humanist speakers meet the twin obligations of promoting the spiritual, moral and cultural development of children and promoting social cohesion.

But many schools do still apply the law. Their assemblies divide children based on their parents’ religion and which pupils take part. They put religious belief on a pedestal, while sidelining those of us who are non-religious, or of a different religion, as if our views on leading a good life count for less.

The law is redundant and does not reflect the diversity of cultures and beliefs in schools today. Christian worship has no relevance for the majority of children. A new duty is needed to ensure assemblies are respectful to, and inclusive of, all pupils, regardless of religious or non-religious belief.

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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